It's About Time



Its about time cover


Track Listing

Dances for the tunes

Many of our arrangements now bear so little resemblance to their distant ancestors that we feel compelled to give details of where we found the tunes, in the (probably forlorn) hope that anyone wanting to learn them will track down the original versions. Not that we believe in making this particularly simple, oh no, see below. Or you could just take the easy option and copy our carefully disguised mistakes, so that everyone will know you’ve bought this album.

1. The Champion 32 bar jig x 10

A cracking jig from MJ’s distant past, which we’ve since found in the EFDSS Community dances manual (Volume 7). The squeezy things (technical term spotted on Mark Tucker’s mixer) like it in E minor and the stringy things (ditto) like it in D minor, so we play it in both, though fortunately not at the same time. Perhaps on the Schöenberg remix…

2. Marten in the bag 32 bar polka x 6

As soon as we heard this polka, played by Hallingdal Kraftlag on the imaginatively titled compilation Folk music from Norway, we just had to learn it. The name – with major potential for concertina-player onstage misunderstandings -- might be the result of someone translating ‘Ferret in a sack’ into Norwegian and then a different someone translating it back into English again.

3. Will’s Way 32 bar hopstep x 8

A hypnotic hopstep written by Will Ward when playing bassoon with Fiddler’s Dram. Low G melodeon and baritone sax give this a particularly evil undertone, particularly when the guitars get turned up to eleven. Not one to be played quietly, as Rob’s drumming demonstrated – a pity you can’t see the blood in the photo.

4. Bàl francés 48 bar jig x 5

This 48 bar monferrina is a carnival dance tune from Ponte Caffaro in the Brescian Alps in Lombardy, more than a little altered in the course of transmission via Riccardo Tesi and others. It can be heard played properly by the original band on their album Pas en amùr, which is available from all good bars (in Ponte Caffaro, during carnival).

5. Silbaätno 32 bar polka x 9

This started life as a 48 bar polka by Mikael Segerström of the Swedish group Norrlåtar, found on their compilation Korpens tecken 1974-1987. By the time we’d finished with it, one part had been sent off, the others had changed positions, and Columbia were ahead of Sweden with only two minutes left to play…

6. Fourpence-halfpenny-farthing / The Flight 32 bar jig x 8

4Hd came from ex-Hammersmith wide-boy Rob Fidler, who in turn got it from Dave Townsend’s A first collection of English country dance tunes. We think we learned The Flight from the aforesaid Dave, who very likely got it from the Hardy family manuscript Tunes for the violin. A particular favourite of the "whangety-whangety" end of the band.

7. Bosolù / Spagnoletto 24 bar jig x 10

Bosolù is an unusual minor/major jig from Ponte Caffaro (see Bàl francés). It reminded us of Spagnoletto, from the Apennines south of Bologna and found in the Manuale di violino popolare by Bernardo Falconi et al.; since to obtain this you’d have to go to Ponte Caffaro and ask him to give you a copy, this is probably the least useful reference on the entire album. The ethereal hammered-dulcimer-like sound is actually Penny playing the mandolin in Echo Canyon.

8. Alessandrian schottische 32 bar schottische x 5

We felt we ought to wait until I Tre Martelli’s album Bruzè carvè had aged a bit before nicking this terrific tune, claimed to come from “an old melodeon player”, for our repertoire. It’s now got (probably) The Biggest Anacrusis in the World -- that’s the bit that comes just before the bit you were expecting to start the tune.

9. Garland Dance 16 bar hopstep x 9

A hornpipe from John Offord’s collection John of the greeny Cheshire way. John (Offord, that is) told us that it came from the manuscripts of Joseph Kershaw of Slack, near Oldham. Or at least, that’s what we thought we remembered he’d said after several beers (his and ours), so I wouldn’t go visiting there specially if I were you.

10. The Lemonville jig / The Quarryman 32 bar jig x 9

Two splendid recently composed jigs; The Lemonville jig is by a Canadian, Jack Hayes, and The Quarryman is by Charlie Sherrit of Aberdeen and is published in Matt Seattle’s collection The Morpeth rant. Both tunes were learnt from the Shepherds (Will Atkinson, Joe Hutton and Willy Taylor); if you listen to the fine album From Sewingshields to Glendale you can hear what they sounded like before our rock’n’roll rhythm section got hold of them.

11. Blue dresses (Girl with the blue dress on / Dark girl dressed in blue) 32 bar polka x 8

Two well-matched polkas so well known and widely played that nobody can confidently say where or when they came from, though the current popularity of The dark girl dressed in blue stems from its inclusion on the Old Swan Band’s seminal record No reels. Since his Gas Mark Five days Rob’s always called this set “Pigs in Space”, but he claims not to remember why. No prizes for guessing where the inspiration for the drums’n’bass bit came from, just be grateful we don’t sing along.

12. Ffarwèl Marian 32 bar waltz x 6

Our antepenultimate adagio, a wonderful waltz from Wales via MJ. This title unsurprisingly translates as ‘Farewell Marian’; the alternative Ffarwèl i'r Marian is “Farewell to the shore”. You can find it in print in Blodau'r grug (Flowers of the heath) by Cymdeithas Ddawns Werin Cymru (if you need a clue, see The Champion but think Welsh).

13. Slip jigs (Another jig’ll do / Up goes Ely / Polly the lass) 16 bar slip jig x 14

MJ learned Another jig’ll do from the Pig’s Ear Band in Swansea, Diane got Up goes Ely from Dave Rowlands (who unearthed it in the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library) and Hilda found Polly the lass in Matt Seattle’s The great northern tune book. Put together, they whip the audience into a final frenzy (the tunes, not the girls). Mind you, some of the outfits they’ve been wearing lately on stage…

14. The Hedgehog (Pindsvine reinländer) 48 bar polka x 4

A Scandinavian gem from Spælimenninir, a band from the Faeroes. On their record Rekavidur a fero they play the Swedish version but call it Pindsvine reinländer, which is Danish. Kitty Halcrow and Charles Saksena have a version in Fiddle music from northern lands with a Norwegian name. None of which explains why we sometimes call it “Spiny Norman”, who’s obviously not even Scandinavian. But then, neither is Finland.

15. We couldn’t put any more tunes on because our thesaurus has run out of superlatives to describe them.


The CD was recorded in March 1999 at Woodworm Studios, Oxfordshire, and May 1999 at Presshouse Studios, Devon. It was engineered and mixed by Mark Tucker and Martin Appleby, and was produced by Martin Appleby.